Complete guide to the US National Park Pass America the Beautiful including different types of passes, what sites are covered, and more.
Types of National Parks Pass
A US National Parks Pass is one of our must purchases every year. We set a goal of using the America the Beautiful National Park and Federal Recreation Land Pass as often as we can.
Having the parks pass is the perfect motivator to visit new parks and get out and explore our great park system.
One question we hear often is what park pass is right for me? How do I know which park pass to purchase?
Today we are breaking down the different types of pass options and which one may be right for you.
National Parks Service Passes are valid at over 2,000 recreation sites that charge a daily park admission fee.
Where to buy National Park Pass?
Passes can be purchased at most park sites that have entry fees. Passes can be purchased at the park offices or entrance station depending on the park.
You can also purchase National Park Passes from Rei and have your pass shipped directly to you. This is a great way to have your park pass before you start your National Park vacation.
Plus! REI will donate 10% of pass sale proceeds to the NPS Foundation.
It is always a good idea to check with the park you are heading to in order to make sure they have park passes available.
How much is a National Park Pass?
The price of each Federal Recreational Lands Pass depends on the type being purchased. Each pass type is listed below with more information on what it includes.
Additional fees may apply when purchasing online.
What do the National Park Passes cover?
The pass covers the entrance fees at National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges along with standard amenity fees also known as day use fees at National Forests and Grasslands, at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Army Corp of Engineers.
The pass covers the entrance fee, day-use fee, and standard amenity fee for the pass holder and all passengers in a personal vehicle up to 4 adults at sites that charge per person.
Children under the age of 15 are free.
The pass includes entrance fees for 1 personal vehicle including rental cars and/or RV's/Motorhomes. If traveling on a motorcycle the pass covers the two people who signed the pass if arriving at the same time on two motorcycles.
It is worth noting that most state parks have their own passes and are not covered by the Federal National Park Pass.
Some park concessionaires may not offer discounts for the park pass.
How long do National Park Pass Last?
Annual passes are valid for 12 months from the month of purchase, expiring on the last day of the month you purchased it.
Example - The day of purchase is January 15, 2022, the pass will expire on the last day of January 2023. If the date of purchase is earlier in the month versus the end of the month they still expire on the same day.
The National Park Passes are punched with the month they were purchased.
Passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, cannot be extended, and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.
There are no digital versions of the park pass available! You have to keep your physical card. Proof of purchase will not work.
If your park pass is lost or stolen you will need to purchase a second pass.
Is the America the Beautiful Pass worth buying?
YES! Especially if you plan to visit multiple National Park Sites in the same full year. The pass offers free entry into parks that charge an entrance fee.
While there are multiple Free National Park entrance days these only happen a few times a year.
Here are the current entrance fees for some of the most visited National Park Sites.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Free
Zion National Park - $35
Yellowstone National Park - $35
Grand Canyon National Park - $35
Arches National Park - $35
Rocky Mountain National Park - $25 for 1 day pass, $35 for 7 day pass
Acadia National Park - $30
Joshua Tree National Park - $30
Yosemite National Park - $35
Indiana Dunes National Park - $25
Glacier National Park - $35
There are also fees charged at many popular national monuments and historic sites. Having the America the Beautiful National Park Pass will feel like you have a free pass to explore more parks and federal recreation lands.
If you are visiting both Yellowstone NP and Grand Teton NP in the same trip you will have already paid $70 towards the $80 the annual pass costs!
Can you share National Park Passes?
If you are wondering if you can use someone else's National Park Pass the answer is No. The passes are only good for the pass owner.
That being said two pass owners can be listed on an individual pass that are not related or married.
National Park Annual Pass
Cost - $80.00
Who can purchase a National Park Annual Pass - Anyone over the age of 16 who wants to visit the parks.
Buy on REI.com
What parks does the National Park Annual Pass give you access to?
The National Park Annual Pass gives you access to over 2,000 recreation areas including federal lands, National Monuments, US National Historic Sites, National Historical Parks, and other sites managed by the National Park Service.
Pass holders are admitted free to public lands and parks that accept the pass.
The National Park Annual Pass does not cover fees for camping, boat launch, parking, tours, special permits, ferries, or other activity fees.
If your family is traveling in two vehicles the pass will only cover the pass owner and passengers in 1 vehicle. The 2nd vehicle will need to purchase an entrance pass.
At per person fees sites, the pass will cover 4 adults.
If you forget to bring your pass with you to a park you will need to purchase an entrance pass. The park will not issue refunds for day use fees that have to be paid when you forget your pass.
International visitors can purchase an annual pass.
National Parks Senior Pass
Cost - $80 for a Lifetime Pass or a new $20 annual National Park Pass for Seniors became available on August 28, 2017. This pass is valid for one year from the date of issuance.
Four annual Senior Passes purchased in prior years can be traded in for a senior lifetime pass! Make sure and keep your annual senior passes each year if you plan to turn them in for a lifetime senior pass.
This is a great way to spread the cost of the $80 lifetime pass out over 4 years.
Who can purchase a Senior National Park Pass?
US citizens or permanent residents age 62 years or older are eligible for the Senior Pass. You must provide proof of age and residency or citizenship.
Where can I buy a Senior National Park Pass?
You can purchase your Senior National Park Pass at most National Parks that charge an entrance fee.
What if I have a current Senior Pass?
Golden Age Passports are no longer sold but are honored according to the provisions of the specific pass.
The Senior Pass may provide a 50% discount on some fees including camping, swimming, boat launces, and interpretive programs/services. These discounts depend on each specific park property.
The Senior Pass does not provide reduced special recreation fees or concessionaire fees.
National Park Pass for Disabled/Access Pass
Cost - Free
There is a $10 processing fee if you mail in your application versus picking the pass up at a park.
Who is eligible - U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. Must provide documentation of permanent disability and residency or citizenship. There is no age limit on this pass.
Access Pass may provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and specialized interpretive services.
Golden Access Passports are no longer sold. However, these passes will continue to be honored according to the provisions of the pass.
4th Graders National Park Pass
Cost - Free
Valid for the duration of the 4th grade school year through the following summer (September to August).
This pass is available for any US fourth graders including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10 years of age, with a valid Every Kid Outdoors paper pass.
You can request an annual 4th grade pass on the Every Kid in the Park website.
Make sure and print a copy of the pass to bring with you. Digital copies on a phone are not accepted.
Bring the pass to a federal recreation site that charges an entrance fee and they will issue a 4th grade pass.
Volunteer Park Pass
Cost - Free for volunteers with 250 service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program.
Service hours do not need to occur in the same year. They can be accumulated over time volunteering in the parks.
The Volunteer Pass is valid for 12 months from the month of issuance, expiring on the last day of that month.
For information on volunteer programs and where you can volunteer visit Volunteer.gov.
Cost - Free
Who can receive a Free U.S. Military, Veterans, and Gold Star Family Annual Pass?
Current U.S. active duty military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Space Force, and Coast Guard as well as Reserve and National Guard members can receive a free national park pass.
The pass also includes US military veterans and Gold Star Family members.
Dependents of deployed military members with DoD Form 1173 may obtain a pass. If the military member has not been deployed, the dependent may be the second signer on their sponsor’s pass.
Where can I pick up a Free Military Annual Pass?
At a federal recreation site, you will need to show a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID (Form 1173).
Who is eligible for the Veterans pass?
Individuals who have served in the US Armed Forces including the National Guard and Reserves and can present one of the following forms of identification or the Interagency Military Pass.
- Department of Defense Identification Card (non-expired CAC Card)
- Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
- Veteran ID Card
- Veterans designation on a state-issued US driver’s license or identification card
Who is eligible for the Gold Star Family Pass?
Next of kin of a member of the US Armed Forces who lost their lives in a "qualifying situation" while serving with the US Armed Forces. Qualifying situations include war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States.
The Gold Star Family Pass includes free access for the holder as well as their traveling companions within the same non-commercial vehicle.
Gold Star Families will need to download and print a voucher to present to park staff to get a physical pass.
Which Agencies participate in the National Park Pass program?
- National Park Service
- U.S. Forest Service
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Bureau of Land Management
- Bureau of Reclamation
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Make sure and hold onto your physical pass! If you lose your National Park Annual Pass it can not be replaced unless you buy a new one.
How do you show your pass if there isn't an entrance station?
There are two ways to show your pass when the park does not have an entrance station but has vehicle fee areas. You can use a rearview mirror hangtag or window decal.
One thing to know is if you own a convertible or Jeep with an open-top you can request a decal to attach to your vehicle so you don't have to worry about your pass being stolen out of your vehicle. These decals can be requested in person at the parks by showing your vehicle registration, driver's license and/or photo identification, and park pass.
All three pieces of information must have the same person's name on them to make sure the registered owner is requesting the decal. These decals are issued on an annual basis to park pass holders.
If the park you are visiting has a booth/entrance area you still need to show your park pass, just having the decal will not work.
If you drive a vehicle that is closed in you can request a hang tag to hang your park pass from so you can easily show that you have one. These work great in parks that do not have a front entrance booth. Just make sure your windows are closed and the park pass is secure in the hangtag.
Is America Beautiful Pass the same as a National Park Pass?
Yes! The America the Beautiful Pass is the official name for the National Park Pass.
Can I use a National Park Pass if I ride a shuttle into the park?
Yes, Just make sure you bring your pass with you so you can show it at the entrance station/visitor center.
What happens if my national park pass is damaged?
You can bring your damaged pass and proper identification to participating parks for a replacement pass. Make sure you have a portion of the damaged pass with you.
How do I renew my national park pass?
Passes are valid for 1 year from purchase. A new pass will need to be purchased once your current pass expires.
Do National Park Passes cover camping fees?
Annual passes do not cover camping fees.
How do I use my Annual Pass when a park has timed entry?
The annual pass does not work as an entrance ticket when a park has reservations/timed entry requirements.
You will still need to go on recreation.gov and book a reservation time when they are available. Once you arrive at the park you will be able to present your pass for entrance fees.
What is not covered by a US National Park Pass?
The park pass does not cover the cost of boat launches, parking, guided tours, special tours or interpretive programs, permits, or ferries.
The park pass does not provide discounts at bookstores or gift shops.
The pass does not cover privately owned natural sites or tribal parks. Examples of popular destinations not covered by the pass include Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, Meteor Crater, or state parks.
Check out this list of National Parks to check off how many you have visited.
It is worth noting that the National Park Foundation does not produce the passes.
If you have ever wondered what it is like to work in parks check out this How to become a park ranger article.
Planning a National Park vacation? The America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
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